Astellas scoops up Universal Cells for $102.5m

pharmafile | February 15, 2018 | News story | Sales and Marketing Astellas, Universal Cells, biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

Astellas Pharma had only signed an exclusive licensing deal with Universal Cells back in October for the co-development of a particular drug candidate utilising the latter company’s technology, four months later Astellas has returned to buyout the company.

Clearly, Astellas liked what it saw during the exploratory deal to use Universal Cells’ proprietary Universal Donor Cell technology – this sees the biotech able to create cell therapy products that do not require Human Leukocyte antigen matching.

Astellas plans to leverage this technology to produce pluripotent stem cells that have a lower chance of rejection. The Japanese company has consolidated its position in stem cell treatments through the acquisition of Ocata Therapeutics, a developer of embryonic stem cells, for $379 million.

The $102.5 million deal for Universal Cells represents the first major deal completed under new CEO and President, Yoshihiko Hatanaka.

He said, of the deal, “We have been very impressed with Universal Cells’ capabilities in cell therapy, including Universal Donor Cell technology, which led us to our initial collaboration and ultimately this acquisition […] This additional capability will further enable Astellas to develop potential innovative cell therapies for numerous diseases with high unmet medical needs.”

The exact financials of the deal were not revealed but the full total paid will be a mixture of upfront and milestone payments, tied to clinical milestones.

“We are thrilled to be able to leverage the full potential of our Universal Donor Cell technology by becoming an intrinsic part of Astellas’ effort to fulfil the promises of Regenerative Medicine to treat diseases,” said Claudia Mitchell, CEO of Universal Cells. “The acquisition represents the recognition of the immense potential of our unique technology and of the outstanding work done by our team at Universal Cells.”

The deal comes shortly after Astellas completed the acquisition of Mitobridge, another biotech that focuses on the development of compounds that target mitochondrial function, for $225 million.

Ben Hargreaves

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